(DES MOINES, Iowa) A Florida company will provide refunds to Iowans and permanently cease mailing deceptive sweepstakes solicitations to Iowans, under an agreement with Attorney General Tom Miller.
Tactical Marketing Inc., of Boca Raton, Florida, and its owner, Raymond Jastrzemski, agreed to cease mailing misleading solicitations to Iowans, including “sweepstakes cash & prize” and “enumeration” reports. The mailings, from “Prize Research Agency” (PRA) and “Prize Finders Network” (PFN), appear to inform recipients of substantial prize winnings, and charge a $25 “research,” “document,” or “administration” fee.
While the mailings include small print disclosures that consumers are merely purchasing a list of publicly-available contests, Miller said that consumers who pay the fee likely think it’s required to collect prize winnings.
“These sweepstakes report mailings are designed to deceive,” Miller said. “They’re purposely confusing, using legalistic terms like ‘official release’ and ‘acquisition form’ to make it seem that prize money is being transferred to the lucky recipient. Only in fine print do the mailings admit that they are not award notifications and that the recipient has won nothing.”
The agreement, called an assurance of voluntary compliance, requires full refunds to a list of several older Iowans, some of whom had sent the company as much as $175 last year, and also requires the company and Jastrzemski to make refunds to other Iowans upon request.
Miller’s office learned of Tactical Marketing by tracking down who had been cashing checks written by a vulnerable 91-year-old eastern Iowa woman. The woman’s daughter discovered that her mother was going broke sending checks to a variety of solicitors. “It had become a feeding frenzy, as deceptive prize promoters, fake psychics, and others shared the woman’s name. These solicitors engaged in tactical marketing by taking full advantage of this older Iowan’s vulnerabilities.”
Miller urges Iowans with elderly parents, neighbors, or friends to be aware of situations in which their bank accounts are drained by fraudsters operating by mail or phone, and to report such incidents to the Consumer Protection Division.
“We’re asking Iowans to keep an eye out for their loved ones and neighbors who are older and may need help spotting scams,” Miller said. “We’ve seen a recent uptick in seniors being victimized by a flurry of scam mailings,” he added, “so we’re taking a broad look at the mail schemes that target and exploit older Iowans.”
For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division through the Attorney General’s website at www.IowaAttorneyGeneral.gov or email directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. Consumers can also call the Consumer Protection Division at 515-281-5926, or outside the Des Moines area, toll free, at 888-777-4590.